William Russell (governor)

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William Eustis Russell
37th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 8, 1891 – January 4, 1894
Lieutenant William H. Haile
Roger Wolcott
Preceded by John Q. A. Brackett
Succeeded by Frederic T. Greenhalge
Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
In office
Preceded by James Augustus Fox
Succeeded by Henry Gilmore
Member of the Board of Aldermen of Cambridge, Massachusetts
In office
Member of the Common Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts
In office
Personal details
Born (1857-01-06)January 6, 1857
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died July 16, 1896(1896-07-16) (aged 39)
Sainte-Adelaide-de-Pabos, Quebec, Canada[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margaret Manning Swan

William Eustis Russell (January 6, 1857 - July 16, 1896) was a U.S. political figure. He served as the 37th Governor of Massachusetts between 1891 and 1894, becoming the state's youngest ever elected Governor at age 34.


Russell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Charles Theodore Russell and Sarah Elizabeth (Ballister) Russell.[2] On his father's side, he was descended from Thomas Hastings who came from the East Anglia region of England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.[citation needed] Russell was the father of Cambridge mayor Richard M. Russell, and the great-grandfather of writer Thomas E. Ricks.[3]

Education and early career[edit]

Russell graduated from Harvard College[4] in 1877. In 1879, he received his law degree from the Boston University School of Law, and was the first to graduate summa cum laude from that school.[5] While studying at BU he won the Lawrence prize for the best legal essay. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1880 and began the practice of law with his father's Boston firm, Russell & Russell, of which two of his brothers were also members.[6] He also became an active member of the Democratic Party. He was elected to the common council of Cambridge in 1881, and to the board of aldermen in 1883 and 1884.[7]

Mayor of Cambridge[edit]

Russell served as Mayor of Cambridge for four 1-year terms from 1885–1888,[8] being reelected with no opposition at least twice.[6] While in office, he solicited a sizable donation from philanthropist Frederick Hastings Rindge for Cambridge City Hall, a Manual Training School (now Cambridge Rindge and Latin School), and Cambridge's library. Russell's son, Richard Manning Russell, was later also Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Russell's efficient administration as mayor, particularly in the enforcement of the local-option law,[6] and his effective campaign speeches during the Presidential campaign of 1884 made him a prominent figure in state politics.[7] He twice ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Massachusetts in 1888 and 1889,[7] defeated by Oliver Ames and John Quincy Adams Brackett.[9]

William E. Russell

Governor of Massachusetts[edit]

Russell finally won the governorship in 1890 in a rematch of the 1889 contest with Brackett. He was twice reelected, in 1891 and 1892. His election as governor for three successive years was a remarkable testimony to his personal integrity and popularity, as the majority of the legislature and the state officials were Republicans.[7] His administration was marked by impartiality and lack of partisanship.[6] As governor, several laws were passed on his recommendation, including a measure to regulate the lobby, and a law abolishing the property qualification for governor and the poll tax.[7] Russell's administration also saw the beginning of an inheritance tax. He advocated and signed a series of pro-labor laws and established the Trustees of Reservations to preserve open spaces. He decided not to run for reelection in 1893, and resumed the practice of law.

During the 1892 presidential campaign, there was talk of Russell being the Vice Presidential nominee if Senator John M. Palmer were to receive the Democratic Presidential nomination. In early February 1892, Palmer and Patrick A. Collins, a former Democratic Massachusetts Congressman, agreed to make Palmer the Democratic Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor William Russell, Collin’s personal and political friend, the Vice Presidential candidate. Collins argued that Palmer, a Western Senator of Kentucky stock, would be acceptable to the Southern Democrats. Objections to Palmer's advanced age would be met by pointing out that Russell, the youngest governor in the nation, would become president in the event of his death. Russell's nomination would command the support of New England Democrats.[10]

In 1894, he was appointed a member of the board of Indian commissioners. In 1896, he was one of the most active opponents of the adoption of the free silver platform at the Democratic National Convention, and distinguished himself by a remarkable speech pleading for a return to the original principles of democracy; he was prominently mentioned as a candidate for the presidency by those who favored the gold standard.[7]


Russell died on July 16, 1896 in his sleep after retiring to bed early from a day of salmon-fishing with his brother, Henry, at a camp on the Little Pabos River just north of Sainte-Adelaide-de-Pabos, Quebec, Canada.[2]


In 1903, the William E. Russell School was built at 750 Columbia Road in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. Architect James Mulcahy designed the building. It still serves as a Boston Public elementary school.


  1. ^ The New England Historic Genealogical Society (1893), Proceedings of The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, p. 94. 
  2. ^ a b Memorial biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society: Towne Memorial Fund. v. 1-9: 1845-97, Volume 9
  3. ^ "Anne Ricks Is Engaged". New York Times. February 13, 1983. Retrieved 2009-12-01. Miss Ricks, a senior at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, attended the American International School in Kabul, Afghanistan, and graduated from the University of Michigan. ... The bride-to-be is a granddaughter of the late Richard Manning Russell, Mayor of Cambridge, Mass., and a great-granddaughter of William Eustis Russell, Mayor of Cambridge and Governor of Massachusetts 
  4. ^ "WILLIAM EUSTIS RUSSELL, Brilliant Career of a Scholar, Lawyer, Orator and Statesman.". New York Times. July 17, 1896. Retrieved 2010-10-04. "He came from one of the oldest Colonial families in Massachusetts, Cambridge being the home of his ancestors for generations, and Harvard their Alma Mater. 
  5. ^ Reno, p. 34
  6. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Russell, William Eustis". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Russell, William Eustis". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  8. ^ Arthur Gilman (1896). The Cambridge of eighteen hundred and ninety-six. Riverside Press. p. 63. 
  9. ^ Reno, p. 35
  10. ^ "SENATOR PALMER'S SCHEME.; HOW F.A. COLLINS WAS TO AID IN SECURING A NOMINATION." (PDF). New York Times. 1892-02-22. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Q. A. Brackett
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Frederic T. Greenhalge
Preceded by
James Augustus Fox
Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
January 1885–January 1889
Succeeded by
Henry Gilmore